Child labour refers to the use of children as a source of labour while depriving them of their fundamental rights like the right to education. While it is illegal to employ a child below 14, employing an adolescent( 14 to 18 years of age) in any hazardous or dangerous occupation is also prohibited by the law. However, as per reports, about 168 million children, aged between 5 to 17 years, remain trapped in child labour worldwide. Ironically, about 75 million people, aged 18 to 24 years, are unemployed.
Why does child labour exist even today? It is mainly because of stagnancy in concrete policymaking, inability to eradicate poverty, and outdated government policies.
Generally, people follow the philosophy of ‘maximum work and minimum wages’. Employing a child is profitable for people. It’s ironic how one the one hand these people have great aspirations for their children, while on the other hand exploit the childhood of these poor kids.
Poverty is the biggest challenge in society. With poverty comes associated problems like child labour. It’s a vicious circle. Poor parents who are unable to feed their children ask their kids to work.
Since Independence, the policies to check child labour have failed to reap desired results. Moreover, the government has largely failed to ensure proper implementation of policies like Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. These policies were intended to check issues like child labour. In reality, it hasn’t changed anything. Government schools suffer from a range of issues like poor quality of education, unprofessional teachers, and abysmal status of sanitation and hygiene.
Recently, I went to a tea stall and found a 12-year-old child working there. He served me tea. I first ignored him, but when he again came to serve the sandwich, I started small talk with him. I knew I couldn’t do much for him. During the conversation, he told me that the shop was of his uncle and he served two meals every day in exchange for his labour. He also told me that his uncle discouraged him from going to school stating that they lacked facilities and food. I genuinely believe that his uncle lied to him so as not to lose cheap labour. There were only a few schools reported with such incidents and mostly were in UP.
Recently our NGO GYWS was conducting a case study on child labour. During the study, we came up with an idea of ‘spot and respond’ to tackle child labour. It appeared to be a great idea but we couldn’t go ahead with that as we faced some challenging questions like, How are we going to convince the owner to free the child? And, even if we convince the owner to release the child, how are we going to help him get food, shelter and education? I realised that a committed association of the government and NGOs is required to eliminate child labour.
What as a citizen of India can we do to eliminate child labour? Firstly, we should stop employing children at home, office, or anywhere. If you can’t contribute towards a bright future of a child better, then at least don’t spoil it. Help them to go to government schools. Inform orphanages who are adopting children trapped in child labour. Small talk of two minutes can bring some critical changes to both lives, so always try to talk to them seeing them as your child. Adopting a child doing child labour is a million times more sacred than doing worship at the religious place and donating money to it.